SAN ANTONIO -- The team attempted to keep it private, but San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is doing more than just speaking to reporters about social issues, according to a couple of Twitter posts Monday from scholar and activist Dr. Cornel West and The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin.
I moderated a panel today in San Antonio with Coach Pop & Cornel West in front of hundreds of HS students. It was as remarkable as it sounds pic.twitter.com/31JIkvFdCY— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) November 21, 2016
Over the summer, Popovich reached out to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. On Sunday, the coach invited West to speak in San Antonio to approximately 350 kids at the Jo Long Theatre of Performing Arts at the Carver Community Cultural Center. The event lasted "3 or 4 hours," Popovich said, and included the entire Spurs team and basketball staff, as well as owners Peter and Julianna Holt.
Zirin served as the moderator for the event, which covered "the gamut," Popovich said.
"It was big time. Cornel West is amazing," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "He's been fighting that fight for a long time. He's very clear, very well-spoken, had a lot of examples and names. He was right there. I had listened to a few of his interviews, and it's just mesmerizing to listen to him. So it was good to get to meet him and to listen to him face to face. And if you add that to the fact that there were 350 kids from Sam Houston High School learning and listening, I think it was very powerful. It was a great, great move."
Popovich has been outspoken over the years regarding social issues, and he hasn't shied away in recent days from expressing his views regarding the presidential election. This event, however, had been planned well in advance of the election, and the team took its time putting it together because Popovich wanted Sunday's town hall with the local youth to be more substantial than a one-time visit.
"It was about the kids," Popovich said. "In today's environment, one can talk a good game about we need this or we need that. We need fewer disparaging remarks. We need more attention to healing the atmosphere for a lot of minority groups, whether it's racial or things that have been said about women or handicapped people or any such talk is just talk. But at some point, there's got to be follow-through where people are engaged."
The Spurs plan to conduct more outreach activities with local youth. Much of the discussion during Sunday's town hall focused on what young minorities face on a daily basis.
"The purpose of it was to show the kids that even though the environment is as it is, and we've heard some pretty rough talk through the election, that there are people, many people at all levels who value them greatly," Popovich said. "They don't need to be as fearful or feel less than because we know who they are. We depend on them for the future."
Popovich said the town hall conversation touched on a variety of topics, including race in America, sports, economics and the fatal shooting of a San Antonio police detective during a traffic stop Sunday.
"Of course that was pretty poignant considering the tragedy we had losing a police officer (Benjamin Marconi) through just horrible violence. But that's what it was all about," Popovich said. "The kids were great. It was as simple as that. We just wanted to be there for them so that they know we want to interact with them, and that a lot of people care."